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October 11th, 2013 By German Lopez | News | Posted In: News, Health care

Governor Bypasses Legislature for Medicaid Expansion

Legislative panel to consider expanding eligibility

kasich_2Ohio Gov. John Kasich - Photo: Provided

After months of wrangling with legislators from his own political party to support the federally funded Medicaid expansion, Republican Gov. John Kasich decided to bypass the legislature and instead ask a seven-member legislative oversight panel to consider expanding Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans.

Kasich’s decision to go through the Controlling Board means he no longer requires a vote in the Ohio House and Senate to take on the expansion. The choice is instead left to the seven members of the panel: one Kasich appointee, four Republican legislators and two Democratic legislators.

For most of the year, Kasich has been lobbying Republican legislators, who control both chambers of the General Assembly, to approve the expansion. But Republican legislators refused, citing concerns about the federal government’s involvement in the health care system and fears that the federal government can’t afford the expansion.

Meanwhile, Democrats, in a rare alliance with a Republican governor, applauded Kasich for taking up a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Kasich’s administration initiated the alternative route to expansion on Sept.

26, when Ohio’s Medicaid director submitted a plan to the federal government to expand Medicaid eligibility. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday approved the plan.

Following federal approval, Ohio’s Medicaid director on Friday submitted a request to the Controlling Board to take up the expansion for two years. The board will make its decision on Oct. 21.

The expansion would allow Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program, to cover anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less.

The expansion is necessary to fill what officials call a “coverage gap.” Currently, parents with incomes between 90 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level and childless adults with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level don’t qualify for either Obamacare’s tax credits or Medicaid.

The expansion would be financed with mostly federal funds. Under Obamacare, the federal government pays for the entire expansion through 2016. Afterward, the federal contribution is phased down and indefinitely held at 90 percent of the expansion’s total costs.

In comparison, the federal government’s 2013 contribution to Ohio’s Medicaid program was nearly 64 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans throughout the next decade.

This story was updated with more information.

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